Program offers support for first-time fathers

Bronx Fatherhood participant Jonathan Muckett celebrates his daughter at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York’s Second Annual Children and Family Services Luncheon. - Photo courtesy of Bronx Fatherhood

As news of parenthood can come as a shock to any unsuspecting first-time parent, a new program is easing the anxiety for local fathers.

Bronx Fatherhood, a supportive network of programs that promotes fathers to actively participate in their children’s lives, recently expanded their Queens-based mission to the Bronx.

Working predominately with low-income, adolescent African American and Hispanic males, the program offers a variety of resources to help men realize their full potential as fathers.

“The second I found out I was becoming a parent I panicked and didn’t know what to do,” Bedford Park resident William Hernandez said.

Fortunately for him, his mom did. Having connections at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Bronx Fatherhood’s parent agency, she immediately directed him to the new borough program.

Since he started attending sessions approximately two months ago, the 17-year-old said he’s learned more than he thought there was to know.

Recently, Hernandez said he received a pamphlet that outlined some of the most important aspects of childcare – a list that caught him by surprise.

“All of the precautions you have to take, that’s a shock,” he said. “I read that packet like the Bible.”

While Hernandez anxiously awaits the September birth of his baby girl, he said he’s also preparing for college in the fall. “My plate couldn’t be more full,” he said.

Luckily, Bronx Fatherhood offers a variety of programs to help.

Along with time management training, the agency also provides new fathers with child support assistance, couples counseling, legal assistance and educational, vocational and employment opportunities, to name a few.

As the new father of 16-month-old Abigail Lyan Ortiz-Torres, Williamsbridge resident Demetrius Ortiz said he deeply appreciates Bronx Fatherhood’s mission.

“This is like the first program to show that fathers exist,” he said about what he believes is a unrealistic societal view that fathers aren’t important when it come to raising a child. “Fathers don’t really get respect from America.”

Ortiz said he first encountered this discrimination when his daughter’s mother began labor.

“They didn’t even ask me if I wanted to go into the delivery room,” he explained. “They acted like I wasn’t there.”

Unfortunately, Bronx Fatherhood’s founder, David Jones, continues to see this growing trend.

“The social service system, the education system and the health systems are not as responsive to men as they are to women,” he said. 

Born in the Bronx and an African American father, himself, Jones said was thrilled to open the program that serves community boards 1, 4, 5 and 9 to the borough.

“This was a homecoming for me to be able to come back and bring such a meaningful service to a community that really needs it,” he said.

Servicing non-custodial first-time fathers, between the ages of 16 and 24, Jones explained the program focuses on individualized education, specifically teaching the men to expand their understanding of fatherhood beyond the stereotypes.

Bronx Fatherhood focuses the support needed to build a family, not only financially, but also mentally and emotionally.

With a special focus on infant, toddler and child development, Hernandez said he’s beginning to feel more in control.

“Being a first time parent, it’s a lot of stress and you need to learn a lot,” he said. “I have no idea what I would have done without Bronx Fatherhood.”

For more information about the program call (718) 742-7057 or stop by the office at 489-493 East 153rd Street. 

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